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Setting The Standard

Jan 09, 2024Jan 09, 2024




Paolo Benedetti has built a reputation as a thought leader in the field of pool construction. As the President of Aquatic Technology in Morgan Hill, CA, Benedetti has worked on his fair share of luxury pools and spas. In addition to running a successful pool construction firm, he splits his time as an educator and expert witness. Consequently, he's become one of the most well-regarded technical experts working in the industry today.

Recently we had the chance to catch up with Benedetti while he was teaching a class for Watershape University at the Everything Under The Sun Expo. Always giving of his time and expertise, we met before he was scheduled to teach a packed classroom of pool builders who had come to Orlando to learn from one of the masters.

Pool Magazine (PM): Can you give our readers a bit of background and information about how you first got started in the swimming pool industry?

Paolo Benedetti (PB): I had a contractors license already and bought a pool service company from a guy that was retiring. So I instantly kind of fell into 300 accounts in the Silicon Valley area. Some of the service company clients wanted to have their pool remodeled, so I went and got my C53.

I had a general contractor's license at that point because I was helping my dad. We were flipping houses back and forth. So getting into the pool remodeling side was pretty easy. I started out by doing a couple of tile jobs and some coping and plaster jobs as well as a couple of replumbs. I liked that aspect of the industry a lot more. Realizing as we were doing some of these remodels, that the original construction was definitely substandard, I started kind of formulating my plan to get into pool construction.

PM: What was the very first pool you built?

PB: The first pool I built was in 1995. That was a $350,000 perimeter overflow pool. I sold the job and then it was a challenge to figure out how to do it. That's how I hooked up with Genesis to begin with. They just taught the very first class down in Morro Bay. My engineer heard about it and he recommended it to me and said "You’ve got to go to this pool school that this guy just set up on infrastructure. There's nothing else like it in the industry. I went there and actually hired Skip Phillips to kind of mentor me through my first project.

Shortly thereafter, they realized that I had some skill sets to offer to their program and I started teaching with Genesis a couple of years after that. That's kind of what started my educational journey of giving back to the industry.

That first pool was for one of the founders of a big semiconductor firm in Silicon Valley. We ended up finishing that pool in about eight months. Afterwards, my wife and I were invited to a black-tie cocktail party at their house. The principals of Intel were there and it was really just a who's who of Silicon Valley on the guest list.

I was watching all the guys out around the pool where we had installed the very first two laminars from Crystal Fountains. We had actually the betas, and we used them on that job. Well none of these guys had ever seen laminar fountains before that night and here's this pool with these glowing green streams. They were standing out there in Tuxedos, straddling the stream, pretending they were peeing. It was the funniest thing you ever saw. Man, I wish I had a camera back then but this was way before smartphones. We were a hit. I handed out probably a couple of dozen business cards of that cocktail party, and there was no looking back.

PM: Sounds like your career kind of snowballed from there.

PB: It did! We decided from there we were going to start divesting ourselves as a pool service company and started focusing more on construction. Now, we pretty much average anywhere from four to six projects at one time because they take sometimes more than a year to build.

Because of my general contractor license, I was able to do things that the normal pool contractor wasn't licensed to do. We could do hillside infinity pools, hardscapes, and outdoor kitchens. So that was kind of where I landed, was in that high-end market just right off the bat. As my network of clients evolved we really started branching out.

PM: Yeah, you travel all over the world now building pools and are really racking up the frequent flyer miles.

PB: Exactly. Right away people were asking me, would you mind taking over this project in Montana? Would you mind doing this project in Hawaii? We were kind of starting to travel all over to deal with projects.

My friends in college think it's really glamorous because I get to travel all over the place. Truth be told, it's actually kind of boring because you’re traveling by yourself. You’re eating meals by yourself. It can get a little lonely at times.

I started another company called Luxury Environments, which I don't advertise. I’ve got a Facebook page, but we don't really promote it too much. I’ve been doing this for about seven or eight years; representing high-net-worth individuals that are building vacation homes. How that got started is I was doing a project for a family about 15 years ago, and they were building a 10,000-square-foot cabana behind their house. They ended up firing the general contractor because they thought he was padding the bills. Anyway, they asked me if I would kind of, like, manage things, and if I’d step up and finish it. I worked out a deal with them, and then from there, I kind of became their go-to. Whenever they were building something, they would ask me if I would be their owner's rep on the job, like a direct contractor. That's how I got into construction management for those high-net-worth individuals. Once you pull off one of those for somebody, they want you to do it again and again and again.

PM: In the field of pool design and construction, there was no Ivy League university for you to attend to learn at the time. You must have learned a lot on your own.

PB: I did, and no, there really wasn't. A lot of it was developing some of the techniques kind of on my own. I’m trying to take that knowledge and put it back into the industry though. This morning I’m teaching a class on grade beams. Been doing them for years and I think builders will learn a lot.

PM: Well, you’ve been called one of the best designers in the industry and you’re a mentor to maybe hundreds, if not thousands of builders.

PB: I like to pride myself on my accessibility. People call me all the time, and say ‘I took your construction class and I’ve got a question about something’. So I’m more than happy to mentor people. In a couple of weeks, I’m going back to North Carolina to mentor a guy who's doing his first knife edge pool.

I kind of fell into a very modern, clean, and contemporary style, which I think is probably one of the most difficult architectural styles to build. My projects are usually architecturally integrated with the home. It's usually one and the same with a free-flowing, kind of indoor-outdoor lifestyle where it's really a seamless transition between the architecture of the inside of the home and outside living space.

PM: That's really what high-end homeowners want.

PB: Yes, exactly. So I don't like that if you build a house and then you did this crazy thing in the backyard. I could do those but it would just look tacked on. I’m not one of those guys who if a client wants to do a fire feature, I’m not going to go through a catalog and pick something that's in distribution. We’re going to go have something custom-made for that job.

PM: This latest project that we’re going to highlight in Pool magazine has some of those elements that we were talking about, where the backyard itself has this dramatic kind of elevation.

PB: Yeah, it had a very dramatic slope. Originally they came to me and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this hillside. We want to put a pool on it.’ So we said absolutely. We ended up building the pool on top of an extension of the foundation of the home.

PM: What we really love is how amazing this pool looks day or night.

PB: It's really cool yeah. During the design phase, the client was really concerned about color. The only way that I can guarantee somebody that the pool is going to have a particular color is tile. We ended up choosing tile out of Canada, a fused glass from Interstyle. What's neat about them is they have a myriad of colors and textures. So they’ve got probably eight or ten different textures from little wavy surfaces to little bumps. They’ve got all kinds of surface variations that you can get.

PM: The lighting on this pool is incredible, too. We love the starfield kind of look and feel that you managed to achieve.

PB: Thanks. The fiberoptic starfield on that project was the first time I’ve done one in a glass tile pool. We didn't want to have to drill holes in the glass tile, so we had to come up with a methodology of being able to align the fibers to come up between the grout joints of the tile.

My tile guys were very patient. We obviously complicated things for them extra with dealing with the starfield. We had 300 little fiber optics coming out of the floor so as they were setting the sheets of tile we were pulling the fibers through the grout joint and then going back and detailing between the tiles with the thin set being careful not to damage the fiber optics.

PM: We’re getting to the point in our conversation where we’d like to switch gears a bit and talk about your expert witness role in the industry. What is it that you do in this capacity?

PB: I don't really pick sides. I do tend to represent property owners more than I represent pool builders, but I do periodically have builders call and say, ‘Hey, look, I’m being sued. I need you to come help me out’.

One of the things you need to understand is there are a number of expert witnesses in the pool industry who are basically hired guns. There is a phrase ‘You can pay an expert to say almost anything’. Flat out, if somebody hires me, I tell them straight up front, I’m going to tell the truth. Really what an expert witness is supposed to do is speak the facts and nothing but the facts. Facts aren't malleable and neither is the truth.

PM: You must see a lot. We’ve seen some awful examples in your social feed or shovel-crete and pools with substandard steel.

PB: You name it, I’ve seen it. A lot of these builders are doing their own engineering and don't have a professional engineer working for them. They don't understand why setting the drains high above the steel and then filling the shotcrete up to the sump affects their steel-to-concrete ratios. So they’ve got a twelve-inch thick floor now.

PM: Is that why you got into education? It seems like you’re passionate about teaching folks how to correct these types of flaws.

PB: Really the primary motivation is I want people to learn what they don't know. Unfortunately for the pool industry, many are kind of led around by the subcontractors. A lot of pool contractors do things a certain way because it's the way they’ve always done it which may not necessarily be the correct way.

From being an authority in the field of pool construction, to an educator, to an expert witness, there are many facets to Paolo Benedetti. One thing is absolutely certain, his passion lies in innovation. He's made it his mission to elevate the profession through teaching and applying the proper techniques. Always giving of his time and eager to share his wealth of knowledge and experience, Benedetti's hard work has captured the respect and admiration of his peers throughout the industry.

Featured Photo Credit: Jimi Smith Photography

One on One With Lucas Congdon of Lucas Lagoons

Editor in Chief of Pool Magazine - Joe Trusty is also CEO of, the leading digital agency for the pool industry. An internet entrepreneur, software developer, author, and marketing professional with a long history in the pool industry. Joe oversees the writing and creative staff at Pool Magazine.To contact Joe Trusty email [email protected] or call (916) 467-9118 during normal business hours. For submissions, please send your message to [email protected]

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Designing Pools With Passion – Joan Roca Master Pool Designer

Lucas Lagoons has rapidly become a household name when it comes to resort style pools. We go one on one with owner / founder, Lucas Congdon.




Recently, Pool Magazine had the opportunity to chat with Lucas Congdon, owner and founder of Lucas Lagoons, a company that specializes in the design and construction of luxury pools and outdoor living spaces. Congdon is also known for his role as the star of the hit TV show Insane Pools, airing on Animal Planet, the DIY Network, and Discovery+.

Congdon started Lucas Lagoons in 2002, with the goal of creating one-of-a-kind outdoor living spaces for his clients. Over the years, the company has grown in size and reputation, with Congdon and his team designing and building some of the most extravagant and unique swimming pools and outdoor spaces in the country.

In 2015, Congdon was approached by the Animal Planet network about starring in a new TV show that would showcase his work at Lucas Lagoons. The show, titled "Insane Pools: Off The Deep End", quickly became a hit, with Congdon and his team traveling all over the country to design and build some of the most amazing and over-the-top swimming pools imaginable.

What sets Insane Pools apart from other home improvement shows is the sheer scale and creativity of the projects that Congdon and his team Lucas Lagoons got to take on. From pools with waterfalls and slides to outdoor kitchens and living spaces, there is no limit to what Congdon and his team can do. Take a deeper dive with us as we go one on one with Lucas Congdon, owner and founder of Lucas Lagoons.

LC (Lucas Congdon): "Yeah, that's how it feels. Wherever I go, there are always people excited to see me or sometimes I get, where do I know you from? And then I know right away, like. I don't know them. They’re a fan of the show and it's flattering. It's pretty cool. "

A post shared by Lucas Lagoons (@lucaslagoons)

"Sometimes it's one of those awkward moments where you’re like running to catch a flight you’re late for and someone stops you. You don't want to be rude, so you try to make the time. But yeah, it's pretty cool to just be able to share my passion and have people recognize that. And it's obviously really hard to kind of start a company and let people know what you’re about and Insane Pools really helps show people what we’re about and that's quality and fun and building one-of-a-kind pieces of art you can swim in."

LC: "Well, it's kind of funny when you’re younger. It's hard to know what you want to do when you grow up. I always loved the video camera. My aunt and uncle were the first in the family to have a video camera and every time they had it on and jump in front of it and act goofy and do silly stuff. When I started to college, I didn't know whether I wanted to do like, landscape architecture or film. I got bored with school and just jumped into creating things. It's cool because both passions ended up coming together. It wasn't like I had this all planned out. One thing led to another. I just always made videos and loved sharing what I was up to and through YouTube. That's how it kind of all got kicked off."

LC: "Well, I remember back to there was one winter there in Vermont where I was working for my mom doing stone work, and every morning it was like an hour drive to this beautiful home on Lake Champlain, but it was the winter, so we’d have to brush all the snow off the rocks before we started working. My fingers were so cold, and I remember right then and there thinking, I got to find another place to work. Shortly after that, I did a tour around the US with my girlfriend at the time and tried to find a place to move to so I could work year-round. We were kind of torn between California and Florida, but I was a young kid without any money, and California is pretty expensive. So I decided, you know what? Seems like there are the same opportunities in Florida, and it's a lot cheaper to live there. So we chose Florida. After that kind of one thing led to another, I started doing tree work and some landscaping and then got into some water features. Finally, I had a client that said they wanted to remodel their pool."LC: "I knew nothing about pools, but I knew if I did some beautiful rock work like I did growing up in Vermont, around the swimming pool, it would look beautiful. I also had met Crash, who has been on the TV show and with me from the beginning. He had done some pool tile coping, and some remodels. He knew a little bit about it, and I knew about the rock work. So we did our first pool remodel and it came out beautiful. The rest is history. I realized that's what I love to do and I found my passion. I changed my business name from Earthworks to Lucas Lagoons and said, ‘This is what I want to do’." I want to build lagoon-style pools, and just kind of took off from there in 2003."

LC: "Yeah, it's hard to keep them all straight. I have a list of some of the most recent awards, but they’re all just so unique and different. And when I first started out, we took the time to submit for a lot of awards. We won within the first couple of years almost 40 awards. Then I got so busy with the show, I didn't submit Lucas Lagoons for awards for years. Just recently we’ve had some time to start submitting again and it was just awesome to get such great feedback from FSPA and then we also won a Pinnacle Award. It's just been awesome."

A post shared by Lucas Lagoons (@lucaslagoons)

"Each job is just so uniquely different. We’ve been doing some modern designs, just to show that we’re well rounded and getting awards for those as well. Lucas Lagoons isn't a one-trick pony. Not only can we do beautiful designs with a lagoon-style pool, but also if someone wants a more fine modern look. We’ve been having fun exploring that style as well and just really enjoy it. We’re always reinventing the wheel and that's what keeps me interested in doing what we do."

LC: "We got really, really, lucky. We had our YouTube channel and people were finding us through that. Then we had, I guess for lack of better words, just kind of like a talent scout who was looking on YouTube for ideas for a new show and saw what we were doing. He made a sizzle reel and pitched it to a few different networks. The first round nothing happened. The second round was drawn out and was like this multi-year process. So it was really like gut wrenching. You think you’re going to have a show, then you don't have a show. That kind of back and forth. After a while, I stopped telling people Lucas Lagoons was going to have a show because it was just taking so long, they thought I was just making it up.""I just figured I’d just put it out of my mind and whatever was meant to be, was meant to be. Luckily ‘Insane Pools’ all came together and it was definitely a much bigger and harder challenge to do the show than I ever thought it would be. In the end though, well worth it. It really got our name out there and we’re obviously very proud of the show and the pools we did. I can say one thing, it was definitely a huge challenge to try to film the show and still be able to run a business at the same time. Yeah, lots of challenges."

LC: "Everyone thinks that just because you’re on TV, you’re just rich and made of money. That's the thing with reality TV, they don't pay you hardly anything because they know that it's an opportunity for you. So you don't really get paid much from the show. The clients know you’re going to get advertising for it, so they want a discount and they want something special. A lot of people have seen Extreme Home Makeover where they do things for free. There's kind of that mentality that maybe they’ll get something for free if they reach out to the show."

"Here I am, just a small pool business – Lucas Lagoons. I’m a self-started guy, and everyone's kind of trying to get a deal and I’m just trying to make a living and stay afloat. Back then, I wasn't famous, so we had small budgets. I knew this was my one shot to show the world what we could do. No matter what budget I got from my clients, I pushed it as far as I could. We gave it all we had and we put our own money and efforts and tried to get deals where we could and tried to make a million dollar look for a couple of hundred thousand dollars. It was definitely very difficult.""The first season was really tough because they put low budgets on the pool. I built something worth five times what I was paid. That was season one, I think that was seven years ago now. Obviously with inflation things have gone up. So people see that first season, they think for $150,000, I can build them the pool they saw on TV. Now, that's our average design fee just to develop these types of massive projects we’re doing. So a lot has changed."

LC: "I think just being able to connect with so many people that I wouldn't have connected with before the show, whether it's homeowners or other people in the industry or kids that have been inspired to be creative and want to work with their hands. These days so many kids are just kind of stuck on devices and disconnected from this kind of hard work and art. So it's been really cool. Kids have sent me videos of them building their own little ponds in the backyard, or making Lego pools or hand drawings of pools. Just so much fan mail. It's really cool. I love that I’m inspiring the next generation to be creative and work hard, that's really rewarding."

LC: "On our projects these days, a smaller project starts at around half a million, our average jobs are around a million. We have jobs approaching 10 million. It's very expensive these days with inflation and just the labor force to build. If someone doesn't have a huge budget, I would recommend looking into some other options."

"There are so many different ways of building a pool, right? I mean, if they’re looking for amenities around a pool, you could do a vinyl liner pool or a fiberglass pool and then just do like a nice covered outdoor kitchen hangout area just to have water to jump in and swim in. My first pool experience was an above-ground circular pool my aunt and uncle had, and we used to love playing Marco Polo in that thing as a kid."

"It's so easy for people to reach for the moon, but really it doesn't take something huge and elaborate to be fun. For example, in the beginning, before we had the big budgets, we’d take an old pool and instead of building these massive footers and using pilings to hold up the weight of massive rocks, we would just add use a pond liner and lip it over the edge of the pool and use smaller rocks and build a beautiful waterfall. We’d cut out some planters in the deck, add some lighting. There's lots of things you can do if you have the ability or the willpower, whether you can do it yourself or find some people to help you.

"My first pool remodel was $35,000, and it was beautiful. Our most expensive project to date is 10 million. So I built everything from $35,000 to $10 million, and no matter what the budget was, in the end, everyone was always just like, this is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I think putting as much care and passion into it, that's really all it takes. Take whatever budget you have and make it as beautiful as you can make it."

LC: "Yeah, there was nobody doing what I wanted to do and I mean nobody. I tried to find people to learn from, and there was just really no one in my area doing it. I had to get little bits and pieces of information from whoever I could ask. Really, kind of the one thing for me is I can visualize what I want to do and figure out how to make it, I guess that's my gift. That part always came easy to me. I didn't think it was really that big a deal. Then again, I guess there are things that I think are just so hard that are easy for other people. I guess if it's your gift, it just kind of comes naturally. "

"I was always creative, though. I grew up without TV and living off the land and would always just make things. My dad was a furniture maker, so he worked and had a shop at home. I had access to all of that so as a kid, I’d play in the shop and build things.""I didn't imagine I’d be this successful. It definitely wasn't overnight. I mean, I started in 2003. It's 2023 here. So 20 years of just, you know, a lot of stress and hard work and ups and downs. You know something though, at the end of the day, I can't imagine doing anything else."

LC: "We’ve been trying to figure out how we can pull that off. Right now, we just have so many projects in so many different states. And Florida is a massive state. I mean, if you go from Key West to Tallahassee, it's almost 12 hours of driving. So we have a huge area to cover. I’d love to find a way to do it. As of right now, we don't have anything in the works but we are self-producing some episodes on YouTube again, because that's manageable and are compiling lots of footage of all our projects. We’re saving that up and trying to find a formula or format where we can actually have a couple of full-length episodes ready to release. We’re just trying to figure out whether we can get that on Insane Pools as maybe like a special they want to run."

LC: "So I went out to Vegas and met the company and they have a cool product. I’ve been trying to find other more affordable options for people. I thought, put a shipping container pool in the backyard and maybe do like a little pool house or cabana. It's a nice backyard for a reasonable price and they’re pretty cool. It's just hard to permit them. In areas where you want to fit one, you have to crane it back there. So not as big of a success with that as I was hoping. Definitely some challenges. I still think it could be a cool option for some people."

LC: "I think what I’d like to do is kind of get my construction company really ironed out, doing the big projects I really love, and I do a lot of consulting and traveling. As we iron out the business, that's kind of what I want to go after, coming up with not only the multimillion-dollar pools, but really cool, affordable backyards as well. I feel like no matter what people's income is, they all deserve a beautiful backyard. Everyone wants the same thing. They want a place to make memories with their friends and their family. It’d be really cool to help people find a path, no matter what their budget, to get a backyard they can enjoy."

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LC: "We’re doing like 15 big jobs right now. It's pretty nuts. I do a lot of traveling and consulting. I’ve been training and building other teams for the travel work. So my team is able to keep working here in Florida. Every day is different."

A post shared by Lucas Lagoons (@lucaslagoons)

"Some days I’m traveling or flying or driving. Right now I’m assembling a big team to do a massive pool in Texas. They’re on 7,500 acres. It's going to be the biggest pool of our career.

"It's going to be a huge, massive pool that goes over a lower pool and between the two is a 3,000-square-foot grotto with a huge lazy river and just pretty much any feature you can imagine is on this pool. It's going to be pretty intense to build."

"Then we’re also designing and going to build our first full-on commercial pool for a resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It's the Inn at Christmas Place and that's going to be a Christmas-themed pool. We’re going to try to do a grotto-like an Igloo. We’re going to have some ice sculptures that are made out of acrylic."

A post shared by Lucas Lagoons (@lucaslagoons)

"We’re going to have a lazy river island with like an old truck with a Christmas tree in it. But, you know without making it look cheesy because Christmas can be hard to design for but it's such a fun, awesome holiday. How do you do a Christmas pool that's not just super cheesy? It's been a challenge but it's looking super cool. So yeah we’ve got some fun things going on."

Listen to our entire interview with Lucas Congdon on the Pool Magazine podcast.

Featured Photo Credits: Kevin

Foam core construction is becoming increasingly more popular in the pool trade says Nathan Giffin of Vertical Artisans.




Foam core construction is a relatively new technique in the world of swimming pool construction, but it is quickly gaining popularity due to its numerous benefits. This construction method involves using foam boards as the core material, which are then covered in a layer of concrete. The resulting pool is lightweight, energy efficient, and cost-effective.

To get a better understanding of how foam core construction is being applied in the pool trade we consulted with Nathan Giffin. Giffin is an expert in the field and has been working with foam core construction for over a decade. He has taught countless professionals and contractors on the technique and has helped bring it to the forefront of the industry.

Giffin has been teaching the technique of foam core construction to pool builders who are looking to add this building technique to their repertoire. He says this technique is particularly enticing for those in the pool trade. "With foam core, you can build outdoor kitchens, jump rocks, fire pits, bridges, and you could have rock work actually emanating up out of the pool onto the decks and over the decks," said Giffin.

Giffin says the future of foam core lies in its strength and versatility. "For decades, the Department of Transportation and various structural engineers and civil engineers have been using foam core in roads, highways, and things like that to displace a lot of material. It's really beneficial because it can handle a lot of load," explained Giffin.

That foam core construction has become dramatically more popular in the pool trade is no surprise to Giffin who indicated that contractors may be looking for alternatives to offset the rising cost of construction materials.

One of the primary reasons he is such a proponent of foam core construction is that it is incredibly durable and long-lasting. Giffin says that foam core provides a strong foundation for elements like rock waterfalls, slides, and grottos, and that concrete stone facing adds an extra layer of protection. Consequently, he feels this makes foam core construction a wise investment for those looking to add a swimming pool to their property.

"The first mountain I ever built at a pool with my colleagues, we did steel rebar construction, which is your typical method. You’ll have a worker bend up all the steel, and then you’re welding it, and then you’re backing it and shooting it. By the time you’re all said and done, you’ve got six to eight inches thick of concrete," explained Giffin.

"We had to dig about 18 caissons just to support the weight of 99 yards of concrete. We shot that for a waterfall that surrounded a pool slide. Six years ago, I did a slide of a similar size, and I used 60 billets of foam. For this project, we used less than twelve yards of concrete, and it's just held up like a champ," said Giffin.

Giffin says that the technique is bound to become more popular with homeowners as they become more aware that alternatives like foam core exist. The techniques that professionals like Giffin are using allow for a dramatically shorter turnaround time.

A post shared by Nathan Giffin (@verticalartisans)

"For a medium-sized mountain, we can probably have the foam carved up in about a week. We’ll actually sculpt this stuff in warehouses and then have the client come out and actually walk on it," explained Giffin.

"They’re completely bedazzled over the entire structure because it's so large," said Giffin who explained that once the client has had an opportunity to view the structure, it's then scheduled for delivery.

"We put it in a truck, bring it out to the job site," explained Giffin, "within day one, it's delivered and glued together. Then all of our pipes are run and we’re structure coating it. That all happens on day one. The rest of the week, we’re just spraying the concrete on and finishing it. I’ve finished very large structures inside of a two-and-a-half week time frame."

That foam core pool construction is a unique and creative way to build large, complex structures with simple tools was the net-net we got from Nathan Giffin. By using hot wires on the foam structure, you can create intricate sculptures that are both beautiful and functional.Despite its many benefits structural foam is still a relatively new technique, and some pool contractors may not be familiar with it. However, Nathan Giffin has been working hard to promote and teach the technique. Consequently, he's been teaching pool builders how to build with structural foam.

This method of construction has been used in the past to create everything from bridges to theme park rides, but it's also great for creating custom pools. With a little bit of knowledge and some practice, pool pros can learn how to use this technique to create custom outdoor features.

It's clear that foam core construction is a promising technique for swimming pool construction. It is energy efficient, cost-effective, and durable. With experts like Nathan Giffin leading the way, it is likely to become more popular in the future.

Want to learn more about foam core pool construction? Listen to our entire conversation with Nathan Giffin of Vertical Artisans on the Pool Magazine podcast.

A pool builder experimenting with movable pool floors was a costly lesson. Learn how this moving pool floor project was saved.




It started with a phone call from the owner's personal assistant. They had movable pool floors in the pool and spa that didn't operate properly. They wondered if I’d fly up to Whitefish, MT, and have a look-see at their problems.

Upon my arrival, I was met with an odd home-brew moving floor system. In an attempt to reinvent the wheel, the pool builder attempted to create his own moving floor systems. The premise was that ballast tanks would be filled with water to lower the floor and be filled with air to raise it.

In theory, it may have worked, but as with any unproved and untested design, there are always kinks. Testing theories on a wealthy client and working out the kinks on a multi-million dollar pool project, is never the place to learn.

To begin with, the structure was fabricated out of aluminum. Anyone who's spent time around chlorinated swimming pools knows that aluminum rapidly decays in salt or chlorinated water. The ballast tanks did not have any bulkheads, so the water sloshed from end to end. This caused the floor to list to one side or end, binding it within the pool walls. You can imagine a multi-ton structure wedged within the pool walls. The deck of the floors were finished in Ipe, a hard exotic hardwood. However, after submersion in water, the wood becomes gray, slimy, and slippery.

To make matters worse, the builder failed to recess the incandescent lights and wall fittings. So the shifting floor structure would sheer off the glass lenses and fittings. In a futile attempt to keep the multi-ton structure aligned, the builder cut guide tracks into the walls and installed roller wheels. Again, the forces at play here grossly exceeded the bolt-on wheel assemblies.

The moving floor in the spa was another disaster. The mechanism was a scissors lift, driven by a hydraulic ram. The builder sourced his hydraulic ram from a local tractor supply store. Over a few quick months, the leaking ram created an oil slick atop the spa. Needless to say, the cast iron ram began to corrode within the chlorinated water.

Once I began to evaluate the hydraulics, electrical, and moving floor systems, it became apparent that the entire project would require a substantial renovation in order to be safe, functional, and code compliant.

I partnered with a local contractor, Shawn Hossack of Panorama Builders. Together we came up with a plan to remove the dangerous floor system and install a new fully proven and engineered system. Though we obtained bids from a number of manufacturers, we settled on systems from Hydrofloors – Twinscape Group. Their technical support and proven track record made the client's choice simple.

The interior of the pool & spa was determined to be not completely plumb and true. The only means to correct these deviations would be to render them with mortar and tile them. First, the failing Eco-Finish would have to be removed from the walls, the walls roughened, and prepared for waterproofing.

Since winter was approaching, the decision was made to tent the project under a 100-foot by 50-foot tent and pump in 2,000,000 BTU of heated air 24/7. Over the winter months, the exterior temperature dropped to below -18ºF with the wind chill. Meanwhile, the interior temperature remained a comfortable 60ºF! The cost to operate the diesel heat exchanger and blowers averaged $10,000 a month.

To get the exact contours from which Twinscape could begin fabrication, the crews at Panorama tiled the top 3 feet of the pool in order to generate a 3-D model of the interior.

Since the walls are supposed to be perfectly vertical, these 3 feet would be a representation of the entire pool depth. From this model, Twinscape was able to begin fabrication, while progress was being made on tiling the pool.

The spa wasn't quite deep enough to accommodate a properly designed scissors lift. We remedied this by raising the spa walls 18 inches and replumbing the jets. Once the concrete had cured, the tiling of the spa began in parallel with the pool.

The clients chose a beautiful blue tile from Interstyle. The hydraulics and mechanical systems were corrected to the best possible conditions without demolishing the decking and totally re-piping the pool and spa. Some pumps were eliminated and their pipes were re-purposed in order to reduce the line velocities on the remaining pumps. Some drains were converted to returns and unblockable drains and sump were installed. The ineffective skimmers in the catch basin were removed and their suction pipes were connected to the basin floor drains. Water chemistry management systems were installed to eliminate corrosion of the new floor systems.

During demolition, we discovered many electrical and bonding deficiencies. The incandescent lighting was converted to strip lights from Hydrolume and proper j-boxes and conduits were installed.

To eliminate the fall hazard over the vanishing edge, we partnered with Reynolds Polymers to fabricate and install an acrylic railing system. The panels were set into a channel within the floor. So, regardless of the height of the floor within the pool, there will always be a railing of sufficient height to protect pedestrians and bathers.

All in all, the repairs to the project took almost 20 months. The ensuing lawsuit resulted in a jury trial and a judgment of $4,750,000 – to date, the nation's largest judgment in a residential pool construction defect case.

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Pool Magazine (PM): Can you give our readers a bit of background and information about how you first got started in the swimming pool industry? PM: What was the very first pool you built? PM: Sounds like your career kind of snowballed from there. PM: Yeah, you travel all over the world now building pools and are really racking up the frequent flyer miles. PM: In the field of pool design and construction, there was no Ivy League university for you to attend to learn at the time. You must have learned a lot on your own. PM: Well, you’ve been called one of the best designers in the industry and you’re a mentor to maybe hundreds, if not thousands of builders. PM: That's really what high-end homeowners want. PM: This latest project that we’re going to highlight in Pool magazine has some of those elements that we were talking about, where the backyard itself has this dramatic kind of elevation. PM: What we really love is how amazing this pool looks day or night. PM: The lighting on this pool is incredible, too. We love the starfield kind of look and feel that you managed to achieve. PM: We’re getting to the point in our conversation where we’d like to switch gears a bit and talk about your expert witness role in the industry. What is it that you do in this capacity? PM: You must see a lot. We’ve seen some awful examples in your social feed or shovel-crete and pools with substandard steel. PM: Is that why you got into education? It seems like you’re passionate about teaching folks how to correct these types of flaws. Featured Photo Credit: PM (Pool Magazine): Is it safe to say that Lucas Lagoons has become kind of a household name by now? PM: Did you ever have the thought (I’m going to be a pool celebrity one day), did that ever dawn on you when you first started down this path? PM: How did you get started in the industry and what was that path like for you from developing Lucas lagoons to becoming one of the most well-known pool builders in the world? PM: Congratulations on some of your recent awards. We had a chance to check out some of these projects, and they’re really breathtaking. PM: How did you get first involved with doing the show Insane Pools and make the leap from YouTube to TV? PM: Can you share that with us? What are some of the challenges of building a pool for a customer that's going to be on a TV show? PM: What's been your favorite part about doing the show? PM: What would your advice be for any homeowner that's looking to build a luxury resort-style pool like the ones that your firm builds? What's a good starting point budget-wise? PM: We were listening to your episode on Pool Chasers, and you were talking a little bit about that. You got your feet wet, so to speak, with remodels. Are you all self-taugh PM: That's awesome. We have to ask you a question that we’re sure you keep getting asked. When is the next season of Insane Pools? Are you going to do another one? PM: We’ve seen you been delving into a couple of other new things. One of them was shipping container pools. Can you tell us a little bit about that? PM: Your firm is known for over-the-top resort-style lagoon pools. Is this going to be like a whole side of his business that we haven't seen before? PM: What's next on the horizon for your team over at Lucas Lagoons?